Comment (9th October 2011)
God has glorious plans for his people. Isaiah 25 pictures it as a fantastic feast, which Jesus embellishes in his parable – it becomes a wedding feast (the most joyful of occasions), to which all are invited but none may take for granted.
Isaiah sets the scene, beginning with praise as if God’s plan had already been accomplished. This kind of faith is what Jesus encourages when he tells us, ‘Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours’ (Mark 11:24). It is a faith that takes God’s promises at face value, and sees that the promised future is as real as the past and present we experience. It is a faith that responds to God’s promises not with ‘wait and see’ but praise and thanksgiving.
The destruction of the city and of the powerful that Isaiah envisages is not a specific situation, but a picture of the world as a whole. The day will come when all evil rule will end, and war, oppression and injustice be no more. Even while evil held sway, God was a refuge for the poor; the day will come when such a refuge will not be needed. In its place, in full view of the world, will be the most fantastic feast with the best meat and wine (Isaiah was not a vegetarian or teetotaller!) – the most joyful celebration Isaiah can imagine! All are invited – ‘all peoples’ includes Gentiles as well as Jews, every tribe and race.
This new joy has other aspects to it. The ‘shroud’, ‘sheet’, that covers everyone will be removed. The words in the original Hebrew don’t normally refer to death shrouds, but to a veil or covering. The picture may well be about seeing the light in all its glory, as if in this world we live in perpetual twilight until then. But death will indeed be removed, and the joy continue for ever. All shame and guilt and disgrace will be wiped away – the picture is of God going from one to another, wiping away each one’s tears personally.
What joy will then be ours! Our faith will be completely vindicated: ‘This is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us!’ That joy can be tasted even now, as Isaiah showed at the beginning of the passage. How much more should we rejoice, who know that Jesus is risen from the dead, and God’s plans are so much further on their way to completion! So let us persevere, and keep trusting and hoping in Jesus.
1) How should this message affect the church? How can we take it in fully?
2) Why do people reject this invitation?